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Operating a pharmacy business can be challenging. Apart from financing and managing inventory, you also need to keep an eye on the cash flow, minimize taxes, and get reimbursements-all while working with wholesalers that often have full control of the costs and prices. This is why you need a pharmacy accountant who understand the unique challenges of your business. You want to work with experienced professional who have many years of experience in helping clients in the pharmaceutical industry operate profitably and achieve their financial goals.
Working with a pharmacy accountant is extremely important whether you own a single pharmacy or a network of several pharmacies. The right team can help you maximize profits and while minimizing taxes legally. Their services are tailored for clients in the pharmacy sector, so there is no waste or inefficiency.
Some of the best accounting firms offering services for pharmacies offer fixed and transparent prices. They can reduce your liability risk and ensure that your taxes are always paid on time. Their accounting services for community pharmacies include bookkeeping, VAT services, payroll, and quarterly management of accounts, corporation tax return filing, personal tax return handling, and annual accounts management. For locum pharmacists, they can provide advice on relevant expense claims, reducing taxes through trading, reducing enquiry risks, and efficiently drawing money tax.
Do you need help registering your pharmacy with HM Revenue and Customs? A pharmacy accountant can do that as well. The best accounting firms will likewise handle self-employed accounts preparation, HM Revenue and Customs filings, company tax return preparation, personal tax return preparation, and limited company accounts preparation.
A reliable pharmacy accountant can even help you with buying a pharmacy as well. They can handle loan applications, provide specialist finance schemes, VAT registration, etc. They can also help you assess the risk and rewards of buying the business, negotiate the process, develop a business plan, project profit and cash flow, and help you understand tax considerations. And if you’re selling your pharmacy, an accountant that specializes in this sector can give you calculations and advice reducing capital gains tax liabilities while acting as a liaison throughout the process. They can even recommend pharmacy specialists solicitors.
The best pharmacy accountants can give you the capabilities of a large accounting firm while ensuring personalized attention. You are served by experts with years of experience in handling independent pharmacies. They are always updated on the trends, developments, and issues in the retail pharmacy sector so you know that you’re getting solid advice.
Is What We Knew Last Month Now History?
Who reading here believes that what we thought we knew last month is now history? In our environ of rapid, almost immediate (if not daily) changes, how will these challenges cause our customer service and patient-oriented adherence activities to change?
Being successful as a pharmacy owner or hospital outpatient pharmacy director today demands constant awareness of the proposed national mandates… and more importantly… immediate understanding of the impact on the pharmacy’s ROI (return on investment). Knowing which low-level profitable pharmacy workflow activities demand the most time to complete can allow pharmacy workflow adjustments so less time is spent on these human resource consuming efforts.
These understandings can be used to improve ROI success… even though they are unique to each and every pharmacy. Will this knowledge support establishment of more available time that can be used in the high-level profitable areas? It can when selected pharmacy workflow functions are re-assigned and enhanced patient education occurs. A major result is enhanced medication adherence by patients.
Challenges to ROI Come From Everywhere
Today, challenges to pharmacy ROI are more frequent with many a result of the virtualization trends that are occurring. What do you know about mAdherence (mobile adherence) and mHealth (mobile health) and how they can impact ROI?
It’s well known that the solution to any problem lies at the base of that problem. With this in mind, why not accelerate implementation of mAdherence and mHealth efforts to support awareness of the high-level profitable pharmacy workflow activities? Which elements or steps of pharmacy workflow and patient education for medication and therapy adherence can be categorized low-level profitable or high-level profitable? No doubt the categorization will be unique to each pharmacy operation, yet there are some similarities.
Defining the Time-Takers, the Time-Savers and the Money-Makers
Rather than abruptly considering Time-Takers as “aliens invading our pharmacy workflow planet”, most pharmacists understand several time-taker type activities fall into two categories: pharmacy workflow and secondly, patient education/medication and therapy adherence activities completed by the pharmacist and staff. Within traditional pharmacy workflow, simple casual observation suggests the selection/counting/filling/verification and prescription adjudication areas are the largest Time-Takers. It is also easy to consider the effort (and time) needed to complete patient education and adherence activities as another Time-Taker.
But which Time-Savers are available to challenge these Time-Takers? How might the Time-Savers convert Time-Takers into Money-Makers? The Time-Taker activity of selection/counting/filling/verification activity can be easily and quickly converted. The answer: Automated Pharmacy Dispensing. Numerous systems for automated counting and automated dispensing are available in today’s automation environ. Only certain of these systems however can eliminate as many as 7-9 of the necessary steps involved in the selection/counting/filling/verification sequence. Prescription adjudication, insurance problem solving and therapy management adjustments by the pharmacist… on the other hand… can also often be another time-consuming effort (opportunity?).
Some independent pharmacies and select hospital outpatient pharmacies dedicate senior pharmacy technicians to solve potential adjudication issues or care transition needs in advance of the dispensing and education/adherence process. Upcoming fills for any individual can be pre-screened for possible insurance issues, combination with other forthcoming refills, pre-authorization of payments for medication therapy management and other health-supporting activities (immunizations, body mass, etc.).
Working through whether or not a patient has an insurance payer that will support medication therapy management efforts before any discussion with the patient saves considerable discussion time later, allows them to understand the complexity of the activity and diffuses patient aggravation.
Are Pharmacy Case Managers An Answer?
The concept of pharmacy-completed, patient-specific, healthcare “case management” approaches are new to the profession. With support from full-time (as opposed to part-time) senior certified and registered pharmacy technicians responsible for specific patients, these technicians can work with the patient/customer supporting the advance of the patient’s health improvement. These approaches are not unlike those being using by hospital outpatient pharmacies in their care transition efforts for discharged patients.
Incorporation of mAdherence (mobile adherence) and mHealth (mobile health) through the use of specifically designed smart phone apps with this case manager approach converts the Time-Takers into Time-Savers enlarging Money-Maker opportunities. The patients subsequently feel they are a family member of the “pharmacy” and have a pharmacy medication/therapy home.
Although it would first appear most Time-Takers might never be considered Money-Makers, the use of adjustments in approach to effecting traditional pharmacy workflow and patient adherence activities can actually elevate these Time-Takers into Time-Savers and Money-Makers.
The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) is the largest pharmacy tech certification organization in the U.S. PTCB announced last fall that 503,620 CPhT certifications had been granted as of June 30, 2013. You must have a high school diploma (or equivalent) and pass the comprehensive Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) in order to become a PTCB certified pharmacy tech.
The PTCE is recognized in all 50 states (and Washington D.C.), and the PTCE is only pharmacy technician certification exam reviewed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. You can take the PTCE at any of the 237 Pearson VUE Professional Centers nationwide.
PTCB’s certification program not only assesses current knowledge, it also requires PTs to maintain certification by fulfilling specific continuing education requirements. PTCB-certified pharmacy techs must complete a minimum of 20 hours of continuing education every two (2) year recertification cycle.
Statement from PTCB CEO
“Passing the half-million mark is an exciting milestone in the growth of PTCB’s nationwide certification program,” said PTCB Executive Director and CEO Everett B. McAllister, MPA, RPh. “The PTCB CPhT credential represents an excellent pathway to employment opportunities for pharmacy technicians. It enables them to stay current and be prepared to meet the requirements of the occupation as our healthcare system evolves.”
PTCE Regularly Updated to Reflect Demands of 21st Century Pharmacy Industry
The PTCE is also regularly updated in consultation with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Modern pharmacists’ responsibilities today include significantly more direct-patient care and medication therapy management than in the past, and this trend is almost certainly going to increase with the ongoing roll out of health care reform. This means PTCB-certified pharmacy technicians need to have additional training to develop the skills necessary to help pharmacists improve patient care and safety, support new pharmacy IT systems and pharmacy operations.
Pharmacy Technician Training and Licensing
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most pharmacy tech training programs last from nine to 12 months and lead to a professional certificate. A few PT programs last 18 to 24 months and result in an associate degree. Most community colleges and technical schools offer a pharmacy technician training program, and some larger retail pharmacy chains offer an in-house training program overseen by the American Society of Health System Pharmacists.
PT training programs cover the math used in pharmacies, record keeping, and methods of dispensing medications, as well as pharmacy law and ethics. Training typically focuses in particular on the names, uses and proper doses of common medications. Nearly all pharmacy tech programs also offer at least a few weeks of clinical experience working in a pharmacy after you have satisfactorily completed your initial training.
Almost all states require pharmacy technicians to be licensed or registered. Earning a pharmacy tech license typically requires a high school diploma, completing an approved PT training program and passing a licensing exam. Most employers and many states require pharmacy techs to be certified by a national certification board such as PTCB.
There has been a growing concern regarding fake internet pharmacies. In fact, the growth in the number of fake internet pharmacy websites has been termed as a “global disaster” by the pharmaceutical industry.
There are two things to stress here.
First, there are definitely unscrupulous con-men operating fake internet pharmacy sites. You must take care in verifying the validity of any online pharmacy before you order your medications from them.
Secondly, you need to take reports from the pharmaceutical industry with a grain of salt. Big Pharma wants Americans to continue to buy “inflated and overpriced” pharmaceuticals from their local pharmacy. It is in Big Pharma’s best interest (more profits) that you pay top dollar for your medications locally rather than buying your medications affordably from a licensed Canadian pharmacy. Therefore, they use fear to scare you away from Canadian pharmacies and Canadian prescription drugs.
So how do you ensure that you are ordering from a genuine Canadian pharmacy and not a fake internet pharmacy?
First, review the pharmacy’s website thoroughly. The website should provide you with the pharmacy license number, the physical address of the pharmacy and the regulatory body that oversees their operation. Most Canadian pharmacy regulatory bodies have a website that lists the registered pharmacies in their jurisdiction. You can visit the website http://www.napra.org in order to find the listing of pharmacies for each province in Canada or to find the regulatory body for the particular province your pharmacy is located in.
The pharmacy should also provide a phone number on their website for you to call. A pharmacist should be available for you to speak to about your order. Ask the pharmacist about their credentials and ask for their license number. If you want, you can verify this license number with the provincial pharmacy regulator.
Another item to look for is the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA) seal. CIPA is an organization that represents legitimate Canadian pharmacy sites that provide pharmacy services to patients internationally. Now, seeing this seal on a website is not a guarantee in and of itself. Fake internet pharmacies have been known to hijack the CIPA seal and place it on their website. The only way to verify the legitimacy of the CIPA membership seal is to actually visit the CIPA website at http://www.ciparx.ca and use their Verify Membership function. A fake internet pharmacy will not have its website listed here.
And the final item to look for on a Canadian pharmacy website is the PharmacyChecker seal. Pharmacy Checker is an independent agency that verifies the legitimacy of Canadian pharmacies as well as American and International pharmacies. In fact, pharmacies can not advertise on Google without a PharmacyChecker seal and Google takes this very seriously. You can verify the PharmacyChecker seal by visiting http://www.PharmacyChecker.com and clicking on the Pharmacy Ratings and Profiles.
Other than checking out the above items on the pharmacy’s website you should also make sure that the pharmacy requires you to provide a prescription from your doctor. Any website that does not require you to provide a prescription is not a legitimate Canadian pharmacy.
Follow these simple rules and you can feel safe knowing that you are safely ordering your medications online from a real, licensed Canadian pharmacy.
Pharmacies generally employ two types of professionals: Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians. While both are integral to a pharmacy’s performance, they represent two very different approaches to careers in pharmacy. When deciding what career path is right for you, a lot of factors come into play. In this article, we will outline these two careers in pharmacy so you can make the right choice!
Pharmacist- What is It?
Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who are in charge of dispensing prescription medications to patients. Typically, a pharmacist will fill prescriptions, check interactions of a patient’s prescriptions, instruct patients on proper use of a medication, and oversee pharmacy technician, interns, and various other careers in pharmacy. Many pharmacists own or manage their own pharmacy and are more business minded. Some pharmacists work for pharmaceutical manufacturers, and are involved in the creation of new medications. The median annual wage of pharmacists is very good, punching in at $111,570 in May 2010, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
How do I become a Pharmacist?
The path to becoming a pharmacist is unique- while most graduate programs require a bachelor’s degree or four years of undergraduate experience, a Doctor of Pharmacy program requires as little as two, as long as the appropriate prerequisites are met, such as courses in chemistry, anatomy, and biology (although some programs do require a bachelor’s degree). An entrance exam, known as the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT), is also required. Most programs will take about four years to complete, and graduates who want a more advanced pharmacist position will complete a one-two year residency program. Many pharmacists who go on to own their own pharmacies will also acquire a master’s degree in business administration (MBA). Graduates must also pass two exams detailing pharmacy skills and pharmacy law in order to attain a state license. While this process may seem long, it pays off with one of the most rewarding careers in pharmacy.
Pharmacy Technician- What is It?
Pharmacy (or pharmaceutical) technicians help pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients. They will usually be the ones measuring out prescriptions, compounding medications like ointments, packaging and labeling pharmaceuticals, and performing routine tasks like answering phones and filling forms. The pharmacy technician will work under the supervision of the pharmacist- if the customer has questions about medications or health, the pharmacy technician will arrange for the customer to speak with the pharmacist, as he/she is the more trained of the two careers in pharmacy. Technicians must have great customer service skills, organizational skills, and be detail oriented. The median annual wage of a pharmacy technician was $28,400 in May 2010, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
How do I become a Pharmacy Technician?
Becoming a pharmacy technician provides the simpler process of the two careers in pharmacy. Each technician must have a high school diploma or equivalent and pass an exam or complete a formal training program, depending on the state. Many pharmacy technicians will learn their skills on-site, but some will attend vocational schools or community colleges to complete programs in pharmacy technology. These programs detail arithmetic, pharmacy law and ethics, and record keeping. This path will allow for the quickest work straight out of high school for graduates pondering one of the careers in pharmacy.
Both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are absolutely vital to a pharmacy. These two positions are dynamic and rewarding, constantly helping patients get their medications. I hope this article has helped you decide which of the careers in pharmacy is right for you!
Pharmacy Technician is a solid career choice. Health-care jobs are predicted to steadily grow over the next decade. In fact, labor and industry forecasters all seem to agree that most health-care job numbers will keep increasing over the next decade. The aging baby-boom population reaching their golden years is a major indicator of health-care’s upcoming growth. And, pharmacy is tied into health-care at nearly every level, which means that being a pharmacy technician should prove the be a stable career path over both the short and long term. This article talks about some tips and ideas about how to become a pharmacy tech. First, lets talk about what pharmacy technicians do day-to-day?
What Do Pharmacy Techs do?
Pharmacy Technicians have a wide range of duties since they work in a variety of venues. The majority of techs work in retail stores. Other environments include Hospitals, Long-Term Care facilities, Mail-Order pharmacies and Military bases. Insurance companies also hire experienced pharmacy techs to audit paperwork and adjust claims. Most pharmacy technicians work directly with customers / patients under the direction of a pharmacist. They may perform many of the same duties as a Pharmacist and must have a good working knowledge of the pharmacy operations. Besides counting out tablets and ringing up orders, pharmacy technicians also decode prescriptions, enter data into computers, create labels, make and receive phone calls, rotate stock as well as countless other duties.
Pharmacy Technicians do much of the work in a pharmacy, but they can’t do everything. They may not answer questions about medications or give any advice whatsoever. They can tell a customer where to find “over-the-counter” products and even read the words from the packaging. However, they can never personally advise anyone to use any type of drug product. Overall, a pharmacy technician’s main goal is to assist the pharmacist in helping patients and customers. They are expected to be attentive and accurate, but also friendly and knowledgeable.
Do I have to get certified to become a pharmacy tech?
Most employers and states require National Certification. Someday, the regulations may be the same everywhere, but for now it’s different in every state. The first step is to find out what is required in your state and/or any prospective employers. At the minimum, Pharmacy Technicians are required to register and keep an updated license with the Board of Pharmacy in their respective state. Most U.S. states require national certification from either the PTCB or ICPT (ExCPT). However, even if the state doesn’t require national certification, most companies who employ pharmacy technicians do. In addition, even if neither the state or your employer require certification, it’s recommended that anyone planning on a career as a pharmacy tech should become nationally certified in order to be more qualified when applying for a tech position or promotion.
What is the pharmacy tech test like?
Taking the PTCB Exam:
Most states recognize the PTCB since it’s been around longer and has a solid reputation. The pharmacy technician test given by the PTCB is a 90 question multiple choice test. There are four answers to choose from, with one being the correct answer. You get 120 minutes to complete the exam. The exam is in random format, which means that the subject matter switches around nearly every question. The exam is constructed as:
66% – Assisting the pharmacist / serving22% – Maintaining Medication and Inventory Control Systems12% – Administration and management of pharmacy business practices
To pass the PTCB Exam:
You’ll need to score at least 650 out of 900. Whatever you do, don’t read online message boards (Yahoo groups, etc.) where people who have passed try to tell you what’s on the exam. There are several test batteries that change frequently. In fact, they’ve currently updated all of the exams in mid 2010. The best way to ensure you pass the PTCB exam is to study until you confidently know all of the subjects on the exam.
What do Pharmacy Technicians earn?
The Salary paid to pharmacy technicians really varies by geographical location. So, in an attempt to collect the best available data, an ongoing wage survey has been running on my website for several months and the results are listed individually by city and state. To see those results, go to the wage survey page.
Pharmacy Tech School vs. Online vs. Self Study
The best route to get trained and certified really depends on each person and their own situation. Each type of program offers different types of structure and flexibility. The biggest factors to consider are job placement assistance, program accreditation and your budget.
Community College – pharmacy technology programs
Many Community Colleges offer a 1-2 year pharmacy technician program designed to prepare students to jump right into a pharmacy technician position. These programs usually qualify for financial aid and other assistance / re-training programs. One of the big questions you’ll want to ask when considering this type of program is about placement assistance after program completion.
Trade School / Pharmacy Tech Colleges
The trade schools are all a little different from each other, so you’ll want to research all of them to find one that’s best for you. If they are accredited, you may also qualify for financial aid grants and loans. If you are serious about attending one of the pharmacy technician schools, make an appointment and take a tour of the school. Ask specific questions about the program and the career placement. When you go for a tour at a pharmacy tech school, be prepared for the big sales pitch and some pressure. Remember, these schools are businesses and the folks who give the tours are salespeople and often work for commissions.
Online pharmacy Technician Programs / Online Colleges
An increasing number of schools are offering online programs which can be completed at home. An online pharmacy technician program can be a great choice for a highly disciplined person. If you’re prone to getting side-tracked by other projects (or TV shows) while you are at home, Online study programs may not work for you. On the other hand, if you can focus and stay on a schedule online programs are flexible enough to work around any schedule. When considering an online pharmacy technician program, shop around and look at the benefits of each. Some of the online programs may have affiliations with community colleges or chain drug stores, which may provide assistance in finding an internship or externship.
Self Study / Pharmacy Tech Review Books
Similar to online programs, self study can be challenging for the focus deficient types. However, one really good strategy for succeeding with a self-study pharmacy tech program is to form a small group and meet on a schedule. Even just having one partner to study with on a consistent basis helps immensely. Self study is also a very good option for experienced technicians who are in need of getting certified because of a new law or employers policy.
What subjects do pharmacy technician students study?
The breakdown of the test doesn’t really give a clear picture of what subjects pharmacy tech students need to study. In pharmacy technician programs, some of the subjects are: Pharmacy Math, The Top 200 Drugs, DEA Controlled Substance Schedules, Pharmacy Laws and ethics, Prescription decoding and abbreviations, parenteral Nutrition, Pharmacology and several more.
What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?
I have been writing articles on why and how to become a pharmacy technician, but some recent feedback has made me realize I left out the obvious. What is it that pharmacy technicians do in a pharmacy? Most people figure they help the pharmacist enter prescriptions and count pills. This is true for an outpatient pharmacy, also called a retail pharmacy, but there are many roles for pharmacy technicians in healthcare. The rest of this article will list different types of pharmacy settings and the roles that pharmacy technicians have in these settings.
I have worked retail, and I prefer other settings; however, it is where a large percentage of pharmacy technician jobs are found. What a pharmacy technician can do is determined by the state they work via state laws and rules. In general, technicians cannot provide clinical information to patients or be the final check for prescriptions. In some states, technicians are allowed to provide information on over-the-counter (OTC) medication (ie, medications that do not require a prescription, such as, acetaminophen and ibuprofen). Pharmacy technician tasks include, but are not limited to:
• Collecting patient information (insurance and personal information as needed)
• Entering and processing prescriptions in the computer system
• Filling and selling prescriptions
• Requesting refills from doctor offices for patients
• Compounding medications that are not commercially available
• Ordering medications
• Restocking shelves
• Answering the phone
• Working with insurance companies on approving payment for certain medications
• Maintaining the cash register and conducting accounting functions
There are many different roles for pharmacy technicians in a hospital pharmacy. I know this type of pharmacy best since this is where most of my work has been. The most common are technicians who work in the central pharmacy. In addition we have decentralized techs, sterile compounding techs, billing techs, OR techs, narcotic techs, database techs, automation techs, team lead techs, and buyer techs. These technicians as a whole perform the following tasks, but not limited to:
• Filling new orders, this includes a variety of medications from oral medications to specially prepared sterile compound medications (including chemotherapy meds)
• Answering the phone
• Tubing medications (if the pharmacy has a pneumatic tube station)
• Preparing medications for delivery
• Delivering medications
• Assisting floor pharmacists with medication histories
• Assisting floor pharmacists with IV drip checks
• Handling missing dose calls
• Billing medications where nurse charting does not bill
• Maintaining the pharmacy database
• Restocking operating rooms and anesthesia trays with appropriate medication
• Dispensing and tracking all controlled substances throughout the hospital
• Maintaining automation equipment [automated dispensing cabinets that store medication on nursing units, automatic fill systems (typically called Robot-Rx)]
• Purchasing of all medication and supplies needed in the pharmacy
• Leading and managing the technician workforce, including upkeep of schedules
Long-Term Care Pharmacy:
I have worked at a couple of long-term care pharmacies, and I think it is a great place to be a technician. They typically employee a lot of techs because the work load lends itself to a lot of technician tasks. These pharmacies provide the medication needs for nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and psychiatric facilities. The typical pharmacy is located in a warehouse. It does not have an open pharmacy for people to come to; they receive orders by fax and deliver all medications via couriers or drivers to facilities. The oral medication is filled in blister packs (cards of 30 tabs that are used to provide a 1 month supply of medication), or some other mechanism that provide the facility with an extended amount of medication doses that can be safely and cleanly kept until doses are due. Pharmacy technician tasks include, but are not limited to:
• Filling new and refill orders (different from hospital because of the number of doses provided)
• Processing new order and refills coming through the fax machine
• Order entry of prescriptions and printing of labels for fill techs
• Sterile compounding of medications (although there aren’t as many sterile compounded medications as a hospital, there are still enough that most long-term care pharmacies have a few techs specialize in sterile compounding
• Billing medications to homes
• Controlled substance dispensing and documentation
• Ordering medications and supplies
• Restocking medications that are returned that are still suitable for reuse.
Home Infusion Pharmacy:
These pharmacies primarily care for patients that require some form of IV or other non oral medication, and want to receive the therapy at home (hence the name home-infusion). I have also worked in a home-infusion pharmacy. As a tech I had a lot of experience in sterile compounding, and found my self in any position that needed a IV room tech. Pharmacy technician tasks include, but are not limited to:
• Compounding sterile preparations in the clean room
• Preparing supplies associated with sterile medication administration for delivery
• Billing medications delivered to patients home
• Coordinating deliveries of medications with patients
• Entering orders in the pharmacy order entry system
No, I have not worked in a nuclear pharmacy (I am sure you were staring to think I got around quite a bit, but I have been in pharmacy for about 17 years). I have some friends who work in a nuclear pharmacy. The hours are interesting; they usually come in at about 3 AM and work until about noon. These types of pharmacies make radioactive compounds and they need to be made in a way that when they are delivered to the hospital or clinic administering them, that the dose has degraded to a specific amount. Without going into too much detail, these medications have short half-lives. So they have to time the compounding of the product with the time it takes to deliver the medication and the time the patient is to receive the dose. The job pays well, but as you can imagine, there are not a ton of these positions available. Pharmacy technician tasks include, but are not limited to:
• Preparing radioactive products
• Cleaning and preparing sterile compounding areas
• Entering orders into the pharmacy system
• Coordinating dose due times with deliveries and preparation
• Billing products to hospital or clinic
Health Plans/HMO Pharmacy Group:
I saved this one for last because it is a lot different. Most healthcare plans have a pharmacy department. They manage the pharmacy benefit of the health plan. I have worked with my companies health plan and have spent some time with the pharmacy department. Pharmacy technician tasks include, but are not limited to:
• Answering phone calls and providing support for patients on the pharmacy benefit
• Reviewing prior authorization requests
• Providing support to physicians and drug companies for information requests
• Supporting the pharmacists in the department with database and projects as needed
As you can see, pharmacy technician roles can be very diverse. The best advice I can give you is to figure out what setting you would most like to work in and obtain some experiential hours in that setting. I have found that the type of pharmacy you train in is typically the type of pharmacy you end up working in.
Not a day goes by when our email inboxes do not fill with advertisements for prescription drugs. Many of these emails promise to deliver drugs of all classes by overnight courier without a prescription. While there are legitimate online pharmacies, and the practice of telemedicine or cyber-medicine is gaining acceptance, this change in the way medicine is being practiced is rocking the foundations of the medical establishment. Being able to consult a doctor online, and obtain prescription drugs delivered to your doorstep by UPS has broad social and legal implications. The Internet facilitates making drugs available to those who may not be able to afford to pay US prices, are embarrassed to see a doctor face-to-face, or are suffering from pain, the treatment of which puts most doctors in direct conflict with the ‘war on drugs’ but on the other hand there is the question whether these pharmacies make drugs available to recreational drug users without the oversight of a licensed medical practitioner.
The Need for Alternatives
Medical care in the US has reached a point where it is expensive and impersonal which has caused the consumer to become generally unsatisfied with the medical establishment as a whole. Examples include the huge differences between the cost of drugs in the US and Canada, long wait times in US pharmacies, and poor service in general. Perhaps realizing this, US customs appears to tolerate the millions of Americans that visit Canada every year to buy their medications, as for the most part, these ‘drug buyers’ are elderly American’s that can’t afford the high cost of filling their prescriptions in the US.
Rather than to travel to Canada or Mexico millions of Americans are now turning to the Internet for both their medical needs. Telemedicine (or cyber medicine) provides consumers with the ability to both consult with a doctor online and order drugs over the Internet at discounted prices. This has resulted in consumers turning to online pharmacies for their medical needs, and in particular pharmacies with a relationships with a physician, which allow the consumer to completely bypass the traditional brick and mortar pharmacies, with the added benefit of having their physician act as an intermediary between the consumer and the pharmacy. According to Johnson (2005) this is as a result of consumers becoming very dissatisfied when it comes to dealing with both brick and mortar pharmacies and medical practitioners. As Johnson, notes, “Consumers are more likely to know the name of their hairdresser than their pharmacist.” When Johnson (2005) rated the various professions within the health care system, he found that pharmacists had the lowest interaction with their patients than did any other group. Today, as a result of this “consumers are buying 25.5 percent of their prescriptions online, opposed to 13.5 percent of which are picked up at a brick and mortar pharmacy” (Johnson 2005).
Drugs and Society
What has brought so much attention to online pharmacies is that it is possible to obtain just about any drug without a prescription online. Many of these prescriptions are for legitimate purposes purchased through an online pharmacy because the buyer is too embarrassed to visit the doctor or for other reasons including the unavailability of FDA approved drugs to the consumer. These drugs may include steroids that due to their misuse and being classed as a classed a category three drugs, are seldom prescribed by physicians. These drugs have a useful purpose to those suffering from any wasting disease such as AIDS, they also play a role in ant-aging (FDA, 2004).
The Doctor Patient Relationship
Today a visit to a doctor is generally brief, much of the triage it is done by a nurse or a nurse practitioner with the doctor only dropping in for a few minutes, if at all. In many cases the patient is seen by a nurse practitioner. One of the arguments against telemedicine or perhaps a better term is cyber-medicine, is that the doctor does not have a physical relationship with the patients and thus is in no position to make a diagnosis, and thus can not legally prescribe drugs.
Ironically when one compares the work up that one has to go through to consult with an online physicians and compares this to a face-to-face visit with a brick and mortar doctor, one finds that the online physician, in many cases, has a better understanding of the patient’s medical condition than does the doctor who meets face-to-face with the patient. In most cases before an on-line a doctor prescribes any type of medication they insist on a full blood workup they may also require that one has additional tests performed, for example.
The AMA, the federal government, and various states claim, however, that it is illegal for a doctor to prescribe drugs without a valid doctor-patient relationship. While there are no laws at present that outlaw online pharmacies, various states have enacted legislation, or are in the process of enacting legislation to prohibit a doctor from prescribing drugs to a patient that they have not seen face to face. Some states also require that the doctor that prescribes the drugs be licensed in their state. This alone could hamper the development of cyber-medicine. According to William Hubbard (2004), FDA associate commissioner “The Food and Drug Administration says it is giving states first crack at legal action, though it will step in when states do not act” (FDA, 2004).
The reason that email boxes around the country fill up with offers to supply drugs of all kinds, at reduced prices, without prescriptions, and more is because people buy them as the billions of dollars the drug companies are making each year attest to. The Internet has become the drug store of choice for many.
Categories of Internet Pharmacies
Internet pharmacies are generally acknowledged to be comprised of the following five categories:
Internet pharmacies can be divided up into five different categories, as follows:
Licensed online pharmacies with a no medical affiliation.
Licensed online pharmacies with a medical affiliation
No record online pharmacies (NRP)
International online pharmacies (IOP)
Licensed compounding pharmacies
I have been writing articles on why and how to become a pharmacy technician, but some recent feedback has made me realize I left out the obvious. What is it that pharmacy technicians do in a pharmacy. Most people figure they help the pharmacist enter prescriptions and count pills. This is true for an outpatient pharmacy, also called a retail pharmacy, but there are many roles for pharmacy techs in healthcare. The rest of this article will discuss the job description of pharmacy techs in a retail or community setting, and provide a bulleted list of tasks. Future articles will cover different pharmacy settings for pharmacy techs and the job descriptions and tasks associated with them as well.
Community/Retail Pharmacy: I have worked retail, and I prefer other settings; however, it is where a large percentage of pharmacy technician jobs are found. What a pharmacy technician can do is determined by the state they work via state laws and rules. In general, technicians cannot provide clinical information to patients or be the final check for prescriptions. In some states, technicians are allowed to provide information on over-the-counter (OTC) medication (ie, medications that do not require a prescription, such as, acetaminophen and ibuprofen). Specific roles that pharmacy technicians can have in a retail pharmacy include: general technician, lead technician, buying technician, compounding technician, and billing/insurance technician. In most pharmacies, pharmacy technicians are general technicians with some of the above listed skill sets. When you go into a larger and busier pharmacy, you can actually have job differentiation where people have assigned specialized tasks (based on the needs of the pharmacy).
Pharmacy technician tasks for retail pharmacies include, but are not limited to:
Collecting patient information (insurance and personal information as needed)
Entering and processing prescriptions in the computer system
Filling and selling prescriptions
Requesting refills from doctor offices for patients
Compounding medications that are not commercially available
Answering the phone
Working with insurance companies on approving payment for certain medications
Maintaining the cash register and conducting accounting functions
Retail pharmacies tend to get a bad rap from within the pharmacy profession. Although I prefer hospital (which will be the topic of the next article), I enjoyed my time in a retail pharmacy. I was able to get to know the customers (I like say patients) personally. It is a great feeling when a long-time customer comes to the pharmacy and you know them by name, maybe a little about their family, and most important you know their medical history. Because of this relationship, you are able to ensure that the patient’s medication regimen is optimal, as a technician you can help determine if there are generic alternatives to medications prescribed in order to help the patient save money.
In summary, retail pharmacies are the most common type of pharmacy, and therefore the place where the majority of pharmacy techs are employed. Due to an increasing elderly population (thank you baby boomers), retail pharmacies will continue to increase in demand. If you find a pleasant retail pharmacy to work in, and good staff to work with, a retail pharmacy technician position can be a positive experience.